There were many things that had happened to Gimli, son of Gloin, during the course of the War of the Ring that he never would have believed beforehand. He never would have believed that he would visit the halls of his ancestors in Moria, and witness the destruction of Durin's Bane. He never would have believed that he would become even more deeply entrenched in the affairs of hobbits than his father had been. He never would have believed that he, a dwarf of many journeys and while not a pauper, not quite a lord, would be granted the lordship of the incredible beauty of Aglarond. But of all the things the old Gimli would have thrown back his head and laughed at, his friendship with Legolas Greenleaf was the most bizarre.

These were Gimli's thoughts as he sat like a stone under a large apple tree, watching Legolas cavort in the rain pouring down on them. Apparently, going inside for a rainstorm was not for this elf. It was curious; before the war, Gimli had hated elves without ever knowing one. And now here he was, out in the rain of his own free will, watching his friend with no small amount of bemusement. They were a study in contrasts. Gimli was planted with all the solidity of a statue, looking less likely to move than the tree he was sheltering under. Legolas, on the other hand, seemed as light as a leaf, as though the next really big gust of wind would lift him off the ground completely. He was darting around the garden like some sort of overgrown honeybee, a trancelike smile on his face, letting his fingers trail over the wet flowers. Every so often he would stop and simply lift his face to the sky, smiling, as the rain fell on it.

It utterly befuddled Gimli. Legolas was reacting to the storm with all the inquisitiveness of a young child given a new world to explore. Surely he had seen a thousand, a million such rainstorms in his life; surely there could be nothing new to him about the smell of dampening earth, the collecting of raindrops on a rose petal. And yet he was eager and curious about all those things - curious by the Valar - a warrior of nearly a thousand years acting like a dwarfling with his first gem. And all because of a rainstorm.

It was really rather endearing when he thought about it.

Gimli shifted slightly, letting his head turn to follow the movements of his friend. After a moment, Legolas glanced over at him and grinned. Gimli could not help grinning back.

Legolas sprinted lightly over to his friend. Up close, Gimli could see that his cheeks were flushed. "Will you not come out, Gimli?" he beseeched. "I want to show you the beauty of the roses. It is too great to be enjoyed by one elf alone."

Who could resist a plea like that? Perhaps many people could, but not Gimli--not from this elf. He got to his feet with a scowl that informed Legolas he was doing him a particular favor, but made no further resistance as the elf tugged him away from his shelter.

He was instantly drenched, but the rain was warm. Gimli allowed himself to be coaxed across the yard to stand in front of a bush bearing only a single red rose, its petals spread open as far as they could go to accept the rain. Tiny droplets of rain had collected along it, glistening like diamonds.

"Isn't it beautiful?" Legolas sighed happily.

"It is," Gimli agreed, thinking of diamonds.

"Look at how the raindrops gather," Legolas said, resting a hand lightly on Gimli's shoulder. "Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?"

"The caverns at Helm's Deep," Gimli replied promptly. He did not have to look to know Legolas was rolling his eyes. But he was forced to reluctantly add, "They only equal this rose in beauty. But the caves will last forever, whereas I know this rose will wither tomorrow."

"That does not lessen its beauty."

"It does to me." Legolas looked at Gimli in surprise. "I mean, of course it is beautiful; but it is transient. Why become attached to it?"

"It may be transient, but it is still beautiful, and worthy of note."

Feeling obliged to explain himself, Gimli said, "Dwarves only love beauty that lasts."

"If that were so of the elves, we would be worse off indeed," Legolas said sorrowfully.

"Why is that?" Gimli replied absently.

"Because," Legolas said. "Compared to an elf, most things are transient."

Faced with that simple truth, Gimli could only stare mutely at the rose. It seemed more beautiful than it had a moment before, and despite himself, Gimli felt a twinge of sadness that it would be gone on the morrow.

Legolas spoke again. "I am young for my people. I have not seen the world change as others have--I barely remember even Greenwood the Great. But think of someone like the Lady Galadriel. To her, the difference between this flower and Aragorn cannot be great."

Gimli glanced up at him. Legolas' gaze was fixed forward, but his tone was sad and solemn and Gimli knew the conversation was not about roses anymore. "One will wither in a day, the other in a hundred years. But Galadriel has seen six thousand years pass. Neither time is consequential to her."

"And to you, Legolas? Is it consequential to you?"

Legolas thought for a moment before replying. "Time is not consequential--not in comparison to what can be done with it." He smiled slightly. "And even if it was, it would make no difference. I am in love with things that fade, Gimli," he confessed. "I am in love with this world. With something as fleeting as a rainstorm. With you. It is not a wise course for an elf; yet I cannot help myself."

Gimli's heart sped up at Legolas's choice of words. "Will you survive the loss of the things you love, Legolas?" he asked.

Again, Legolas stopped to think before nodding slowly. "Yes. I have loved mortals before...though not like this," he added softly. "But whatever happens, the earth and the trees and my kin will always be there for me." He shrugged lightly and moved away from the rosebush, wandering out into the garden. "And even if I could not survive it, I do not think I have a choice in the matter. I cannot control who I love. What I love."

Gimli followed him. The sky chose that exact moment to open up, pouring buckets of rain down on them. Gimli made a small grumbling noise; Legolas turned around and laughed. "You should have brought your cloak out, Gimli."

"I did not know it was going to rain. Nor did I know you would insist on staying out once it did."

Smiling, Legolas walked towards Gimli. Facing him, he wrapped his arms around the dwarf's shoulders so that his cloak also protected Gimli. "Better?

"Much." Gimli hesitated, then wrapped his arms around Legolas' waist, pressing closer.

"You may be in love with things that fade," Gimli said softly, his head pressed to Legolas' chest as they watched the rain fall, "but I am a dwarf. The things that I love are bright and beautiful as the sun--and they do not fade, they live forever." There was a small silence in which Gimli was certain his words had hit home. He smiled. "And they are curiously enamored of rainstorms."

Legolas looked down at him and smiled brightly. Gimli grinned back; then he tilted his face up slightly, and Legolas gently drew a finger across his lips. And there in the middle of the pouring rain, the garden quietly drinking all around them, the dwarf and elf shared their first, blissful kiss.